June 14th, 2013
04:05 PM ET

Superman: Flying to a church near you

By Eric Marrapodi, Co-Editor CNN Belief Blog
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Baltimore, Maryland (CNN) - As the new Superman movie takes flight this weekend, filmmakers are hoping the Man of Steel lands not only in theaters, but also in pulpits.

Warner Bros. Studios is aggressively marketing "Man of Steel" to Christian pastors, inviting them to early screenings, creating Father’s Day discussion guides and producing special film trailers that focus on the faith-friendly angles of the movie.

The movie studio even asked a theologian to provide sermon notes for pastors who want to preach about Superman on Sunday. Titled “Jesus: The Original Superhero,” the notes run nine pages.

“How might the story of Superman awaken our passion for the greatest hero who ever lived and died and rose again?” the sermon notes ask.

(Disclaimer: CNN, like Warner Bros., is owned by Time Warner.)

Similar campaigns to corral the country's large number of Christians into the movie theater have been used for "Les Miserables," "Soul Surfer" and "The Blind Side," all of which had at least some faith angle.

Baltimore pastor Quentin Scott is among dozens of ministers who received an e-mail invitation from Grace Hill Media, a Hollywood-based Christian marketing firm, to an early screening of “Man of Steel.”

“There was an actual push to say `We’re putting out something that speaks to your group,' ” said Scott, one of the pastors of Shiloh Christian Community Church in Baltimore.

At first, Scott said, he didn’t buy the religious pitch. Then he decided to attend a free midweek screening in Baltimore.

“When I sat and listened to the movie I actually saw it was the story of Christ, and the love of God was weaved into the story," said the pastor.

"It was something I was very excited about that with the consultation of our senior pastor, we could use in our congregation.”

CNN Entertainment: 'Man of Steel' director Zack Snyder on Superman's Christ-like parallels

Grace Hill’s sermon notes are specially designed for churches like Shiloh that integrate multimedia into their services.

“Let’s take a look at the trailer for `Man of Steel,’” the notes suggest after briefly introducing the movie’s history and themes.

The man behind the notes, Pepperdine University professor Craig Detweiler, has prepared similar material for films like 2009’s "The Blind Side" and "The Book of Eli" from 2010.

The spiritual themes in “Man of Steel” are abundant, Detweiler said, and his notes enable Christians to thoughtfully engage with pop culture instead of shunning it.

“All too often, religious communities have been defined by what they're against. With a movie like `Man of Steel,’ this is a chance to celebrate a movie that affirms faith, sacrifice and service,” Detweiler said.

It will be hard for even casual Christians to miss the messianic metaphors in "Man of Steel.”

The movie focuses on the origins of Superman, who was sent from the planet Krypton as an infant to save his species.

He is raised by surrogate parents who help him grapple with his special powers, even though they don’t fully understand the source of his extraordinary abilities.

When he turns 33, Superman must willingly sacrifice himself to save the human race.

Sound familiar?

If that’s not enough, as a boy Clark Kent is shown wrestling with his superpowers, and asks his earthly dad, Jonathan Kent, “Did God do this to me?”

“Somewhere out there you have another father and he sent you here for a reason,” says Jonathan Kent.

Even the visuals hammer home the messianic motifs.

During a fight with his archenemy, General Zod, Superman plunges down to Earth, his arms outstretched as if he were being crucified. Of course, he rises again.

Detweiler writes in the sermon notes, “What Jesus and Superman both give us, through their `hero’ actions but also their `human’ actions – is hope.”

“I think it’s a very good thing that Hollywood is paying attention to the Christian marketplace,” said Ted Baehr, who runs Movieguide, a website that reviews family friendly films from a Christian perspective.

“Where it gets sticky is when they try to manipulate the market and when Christians try to manipulate Hollywood. But here I think we have the right balance.”

But other Christians are heaving a supersized sigh at the movie marketing.

"Any pastor who thinks using `Man of Steel Ministry Resources' is a good Sunday morning strategy must have no concept of how high the stakes are, or very little confidence in the power of God’s word and God’s spirit," writes P.J. Wenzel, a deacon and Sunday School teacher at Dublin Baptist Church in Ohio.

"As they entertain their congregants with material pumped out from Hollywood’s sewers, lives are kept in bondage, and people’s souls are neglected," according to Wenzel, who said he was e-mailed information about the movie.

Scott, the Baltimore pastor, said he knows that Warner Bros. Studios has a financial incentive in pushing the film to pastors.

But he said that’s fine with him. “They’re using us but in fact we’re using them,” he said.

His church won't show clips from the movie this weekend because it had already planned out its service. But he plans to use them later, during meetings with the church’s men’s group.

“If you give me another opportunity to talk to someone about Jesus Christ, and I can do that because of your movie, that’s a win for me, because it is about spreading the Gospel.”

CNN's Erin McPike contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Celebrity • Christianity • Church • Entertainment • Media • Movies

soundoff (6,545 Responses)
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    June 28, 2013 at 9:42 am |
  2. LIGHT

    For those atheists who don't believe in anything, and for Christians who don't believe in Quran please read this:

    Do not these disbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were an integrated mass, which We then split, and from water We made all living things? Will they not believe even then? (21:30)

    With power did We construct Heaven. Verily, We are expanding it. (51:47)

    On that day We will fold the heaven, like the folding of a book. Just as We initiated the first creation, We will revert it. This is Our promise. We will certainly fulfill it. (21:104)

    The greatness of the Quran, which stated 1400 years ago that the universe was created from the one primordial wholeness(which we are calling the big bang theory), that it expanded, and that it would shrink back -at a time when all scientific evidence was lacking- is understood better today with the advance of science and the discovery of the mystery of the universe.

    See how Quran is talking about the past, the present and the future of the universe very accurately where no else can do it.

    Now show us what did the Earth or the Nature said to us.

    June 28, 2013 at 3:10 am |
    • Science

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      Civil rights beat the red horn-y devil.

      16 brave and humorous signs on gay marriage


      June 28, 2013 at 7:33 am |
  3. CGAW

    This last Superman movie was great and the messianic themes predate this movie by quite a bit. So many books and movies based on a messianic concept. Also, no matter who you are and what you believe, everyone desires a savior for the world to crush evil and for good to reign. Superheroes bring that beleif and hope to the masses in the form of entertainment.

    June 26, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
  4. tony

    Superman is clearly far more powerful than god.

    Superman wouldn't have to hide the Israelites from the Egyptian army, by whipping up an impenetrable mist, then need a tidal wave to drown them the next day.

    He would just zap 'em all dead in the first place. Just like any real god would.

    June 25, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
    • Langolier

      I have 3 choices now.

      A.) I can argue that because you have no proof Superman doesn't exist that you are not allowed to be pleased with him.

      B.) I can argue that Batman is better than Superman and give you my reasons.

      C.) I can let you have your Superman and move on with my life.

      June 26, 2013 at 5:49 am |
  5. Stephen Hawking is an Idiot!!!!


    June 25, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
    • Science

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      Application Timestamp: 5191e7aa

      OOps still trying to get ride of the crickets !


      June 25, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
  6. Science

    Hey Creationists..........evolution created US NOT a horn-y red devil and fairy in the sky !

    Two Mutations Triggered an Evolutionary Leap 500 Million Years Ago

    June 24, 2013 — Evolution, it seems, sometimes jumps instead of crawls. A research team led by a University of Chicago scientist has discovered two key mutations that sparked a hormonal revolution 500 million years ago.


    June 25, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • Science

      Hey Creationists..........evolution created US NOT a horn-y red devil and fairy in the sky !.

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      June 25, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  7. Shalom


    June 24, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • james

      beautiful, thanks, does not have much to do with the blog except is not the Creator so amazing and to think we evolved to this is wonderful but why are we not all this beautiful. I know, stop your evolution drivel and enjoy the wonders of this earth and the beauty upon it. just know it is just a little while longer and the wicked will be no more and the righteous will inherit the earth and live forever in peace. Psalms 37; Rev.21 etc. for just a preview of the wonders to come. and again thanks for a taste of the beautiful things that are now and to come.

      June 25, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • sam stone

      "thanks for a taste of the beautiful things that are now and to come."

      why wait?

      June 25, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • james

      leave it to sammie to find something wrong with that. sam? you are so wise but now that I have seen all your wisdom please give me a year or so to think about it. thanks again for the post shalom and (shalom to you so sam does not know what we are saying)

      June 26, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
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    June 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
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    June 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
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  16. fitnessandapologetics

    The likenesses are all too obvious even as they are obfuscating. Another article, with video attached, makes the likenesses clear from the movie’s various trailers. Try searching online for “New Superman movie: Man of Steel (aliens and pentagrams).”

    June 24, 2013 at 10:23 am |
  17. Jake

    God was weaved into the story? When Jonathan Kent tells Clark that woman was just scared when she said it was the work of god, and Clark asks Jonathan if it was god and Jonathan responds by showing Clark the spacecraft he arrived in...that means no. God is not weaved into the story. That's called making stuff up to make yourself happy. If anything, it was a bash on religion because some crazy lady thinks a completely explainable event is the work of a god. So sad...

    June 24, 2013 at 9:34 am |

    GOD is absolutely Real.


    June 24, 2013 at 5:36 am |
  19. jboom

    I see your pint; however,

    There is good reason to believe that the modern neo-Darwinian theory of evolution' days are numbered.
    It may take 10, 15 years, or more. But its on its last leg. There is a silent panic!

    The reason I predict the eventual demise of Darwinian theory of evolution is for a few reasons:

    1.ID researchers have made significant progress in exposing weaknesses of modern, current Darwinian theory
    2.There are more and more scientists that are finally willing to take the heat for even questioning the orthodox view on current theory of evolution
    3. Evidence in support of modern theory of evolution is quite thin – it does fit the evolutionary theory, but the same evidence also fits the ID theory
    4. There are a few apparent smoking guns raised by ID researchers that as of today have not been adequately answered
    5. The media is slowly beginning to see and understand the differences between ID and traditional creationists; and ID will eventually receive a fair hearing (Dover case notwithstanding due to a variety of legitimate appeals)

    Much of the mountain of evidence that is cited either supports small scale evolution (HIV virus, bacterial resistantce, etc.), OR, is merely adopted uncritically and is interpreted within a Darwinian, naturalistic mindset (fossil record and DNA record). When we look at the evidence more critically, it becomes much more apparent that the evidence is neutral and no more denies evolution than ID.

    Darwin himself believed in considering the both sides of the theory. Finally, more and more are willing to be ostracized and attacked for doing so. But too many remain silent out of fear of jeopardizing their career. Some very well respected university researchers that are critical of Darwin theory advise younger researchers to simply go with the flow lest they hurt their careers.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

    June 24, 2013 at 12:27 am |
    • Charles Darwin

      You, sir, are an idiot.

      June 24, 2013 at 3:50 am |
    • Jake

      No matter what retard logic you conjure, your only 'evidence' for the existence of god is a book written by bronze-age men 2000 years ago who couldn't even explain the seasons, and then translated through a number of different languages countless times. You have no evidence. Evolution has plenty. You can cite holes in fossil records, etc...but that's just you playing ignorant. Your choice. But it doesn't change the fact that evolution is the one and only way that we came to be who we are on this planet. Religion is a poison and humanity is slowly discovering the cure. With the number of atheists increasing so rapidly, the Darwinistic theory of evolution is not leaving. It's here to stay.

      June 24, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • tallulah13

      It's rather foolish to keep posting your ID drivel on the internet, where it only takes seconds and minimal googling skills to debunk your silly claims.

      June 24, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Rim

      Your points are very valid and right on!

      When it comes to the truth, Evolution-macro is but a theory with gaps, a theory with gaping holes.

      It will remain as an 'idea', as a 'concept' that is unproven. It should not be taught as a fact. Macro evolution will not be able to stand up to the evidentiary test. It will slowly die its natural death.

      Life simply doesn't transform into a whole different species.

      June 24, 2013 at 11:14 am |
    • Science

      Hey jboom................BOOM BOOM !


      Life in the Universe: Just Add Water?


      June 24, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Science

      Hey jboom

      What do you have to say about ...................just add water ?

      June 26, 2013 at 6:07 am |
    • nothern Light


      A question Boomer.

      The human race has, through technological innovations, been able to track oncoming asteroids and space junk that your sky fairy left behind after he was supposed to have created the universe.

      Now if by chance we should determine, through science, that a giant space rock might hit the earth ....would you turn to your 2000 year old bronze age bk for a remedy ......or ask those pesky scientists to come up with a solution.

      Since your book was supposed to have been written by "the" intelligence of the universe.....ya think he can
      come up with a solution in time.......or will you die on your knees praying to ....thin air.

      June 27, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Science

      hey jboom crickets have DNA too !

      June 28, 2013 at 7:42 am |
  20. Thank You, Jesus! Nik Wallenda made it through!

    A super man indeed!

    June 23, 2013 at 10:10 pm |
    • Observer

      Wallenda did it because of his skill. If Jesus was watching him, it's the same Jesus that also watched all the school children get slaughtered.

      June 23, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • The real Tom

      How come Jesus didn't choose to save the wingwalker and the pilot at the recent air show?

      June 23, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
    • Joel

      Nik is awesome! His faith in his savior is beyond awesome! What a powerful testament to trusting in God.

      June 23, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
    • tallulah13

      So let's get this straight - thousands of people (including good christians) die every day for reasons beyond their control, but you ignore this and instead praise your god because some person who endangered his own life as a publicity stunt managed (through his own training) not to kill himself? You christians have some really messed up priorities.

      June 24, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Trent

      Nik prepared well for the feat, he needed more than just his skills, support and encouragement. As was evident he needed his creator God throughout his walk on the tight rope. He prayed to stay calm, he prayed for peace and his prayers were answered. Amazing!

      June 24, 2013 at 11:33 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.